The year’s best offbeat rock — so far

In an age when technology seems to drive (and often overwhelm) every hit song, Andrew Bird, a classically trained violinist, plays music that’s powerful because of its graceful simplicity.

His new CD, Armchair Apocrypha (out 3/20), highlights, to marvelous effect, Bird’s most basic instrument: his mouth. In addition to playing violin, guitar, and glockenspiel, he also whistles. This might sound like a small thing, but his whistling — sweeping across the opening of should-be hit “Dark Matter,” haunting the background of the mournful but catchy “Spare-ohs” — makes Armchair Apocrypha a stunningly singular record.

The Swedish indie rockers Peter Bjorn and John had a whistling hit with “Young Folks” last year, but nobody strikes the high, lonesome note as expressively as Bird. With Armchair Apocrypha, his knack for conjuring atmosphere and for hooky songwriting — an uncommon combination — has produced a gem.

“>HEAR two songs from the new album on Andrew Bird’s MySpace page

“>WATCH Andrew Bird’s appearance on children’s television as “Dr. Stringz”

“>BUY Armchair Apocrypha

This post is from Observer Short List—an email of three favorite things from people you want to know. Sign up to receive OSL here. The year’s best offbeat rock — so far